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2.110300 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FRANCE: A Musical Tour of Brittany and Normandy (NTSC)

A Musical Tour of Brittany and Normandy
With music by Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck



Seascape • Etretat • Mont St-Michel • Enclos paroissial and Calvary of Pleyben • Créac’h Lighthouse • Île d’Ouessant (Ushant) • Alignments of Carnac

The coast of Northern France is seen in the half-light, as the sun sets. Etretat lies on the coast between Fécamp and Le Havre. Rock formations on the neighbouring cliffs offer natural arches. The great Abbey of Mont St-Michel lies off the coast, built on a granite island that seems to rise out of the sea, the other side of the Cherbourg peninsula. The church enclosure of Pleyben, known in Brittany as l’enclos paroissial, a feature of local churchyards of the region, contains a remarkable sixteenth-century Calvary, with many carved figures in the dress of the period. The Island of Ushant, further to the West, is off the coast from Brest. The safety of ships entering the Channel is aided by the Créac’h lighthouse, which is on the north-west side of Ushant. Carnac, near Vannes and beyond Brest, is the site of a great collection of ancient menhirs, some 2730 megaliths known as the Alignments of Carnac.

Music Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 3, ‘Organ’ – I. Adagio – Allegro moderato

Camille Saint-Saëns was born in Paris in 1835 and showed remarkable precocity as a child. Known to his contemporaries as ‘the French Mendelssohn’, he composed music in many genres, although by the time of his death in 1921 musical fashions had changed. His Organ Symphony, Symphony No 3 in C minor, which includes two pianos and an organ in its instrumentation, was written in 1886, a tribute to Franz Liszt, who died in that year. The work is in two movements, which contain in themselves the pattern of a four-movement symphony. The symphony is united by the cyclic use of thematic material, with melodies or fragments of melody returning, a form of writing exemplified in the work of César Franck. The first part starts with a slow introduction, followed by a theme that is later to return, and a contrasting secondary theme of gentler character.


Île de Fédrun • La Grande Brière • Les Marais Salants (Salt Marshes) • Le Croisic • Lanester • Abbey of Jumièges

The Brière is a marshy plain, once a lagoon, but now with dikes that allow the small boats of fishermen and fowlers to pass. The Island of Fédrun is one of the various village settlements of the region. Le Croisic, a fishing-port, on the road from Guérande to La Baule, now finds a place for the wreckage of boats, decaying in the water. Near Vannes, on the Atlantic coast, is the Gulf of Morbihan, with Lanester (‘Land of the River’) the third largest town of the region. The ruined Abbey of Jumièges takes us back to Normandy. Founded by St Philibert in the seventh century, the surviving buildings date from the eleventh century and owe much to the Abbot Robert II, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1051, but was deposed the following year and died at Jumièges.

Music Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 3, ‘Organ’ – I. Poco adagio

The first part of the symphony continues as the organ opens a slow movement of sadder complexion, with passing references to the cyclic theme already heard.


Storm • Ushant and La Baule • Bayeux Tapestry • Rothéneuf Rock Carvings

Storms arise off the Atlantic coast, where the Ushant lighthouse acts as a guide to mariners. The Bayeux Tapestry seems to have been presented to Bishop Odo by Queen Matilda about the year 1080. Anglo-Saxon in workmanship, it presents a pictorial account of the conquest of England by William of Normandy in 1066, with the story ranging from the promise of Edward the Confessor to leave the kingdom to William, the latter’s crossing of the Channel and the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry is displayed in the Old Seminary in Bayeux. Rothéneuf, near St-Malo, takes its name from the family of pirates and smugglers that made their home there. The carved rocks, with grotesque faces, serpents and monsters, were made by the Abbé Fouré in the later nineteenth century.

Music Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 3, ‘Organ’ – II. Allegro moderato – Presto – Allegro moderato – Presto – Allegro moderato

An energetic string melody opens the equivalent of a Scherzo, with more lyrical contrasting sections.


Mont St-Michel

Built on an island off the Normandy coast, the Abbey of Mont St-Michel is linked to the mainland by a causeway. The foundation dates from the eighth century, when the Archangel Michael is said to have told St Aubert to build a shrine there. This became a place of pilgrimage and a monastery, as well as a site of some strategic importance in various wars. The monastery was dissolved at the time of the French Revolution and served as a prison until 1863. The island and its buildings offer a memorable sight, whether by day or illuminated by night.

Music Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 3, ‘Organ’ – II. Maestoso – Allegro – Più allegro – Molto allegro – Pesante

The organ opens the last section of the symphony, introducing masterly fugal writing in music of considerable variety, with a short pastoral interlude replaced by the massive climax of the whole work.


Ushant and Île aux Moines • Enclos paroissial and Calvary at Plougonven • Trégastel Harbour • St-Quay-Portrieux • Pointe de St-Mathieu • By Boat from Brest to Ushant

The bird sanctuaries of the Islands of Ushant and of Les Moines are followed by a glimpse of the characteristically Breton church enclosure of Plougonven, with its elaborately carved sixteenth-century Calvary. Trégastel, now a seaside resort, is on the coast between St-Malo and Morlaix. St-Quay-Portrieux, on the same route, takes its name from the Welsh St Kea, while the Pointe de St- Mathieu recalls in its name the legend that the head of St Matthew was brought there by Breton sailors. It was the site of a sixth century monastery. Brest itself remains an important naval base, with a fine natural harbour. From here it is possible to take the boat to Ushant.

Music César Franck: Prélude et Choral

After an early career as a virtuoso pianist, César Franck settled in Paris, where he won a reputation as an organist and teacher, and eventually as a composer of some originality, with a loyal following of disciples. His Prélude, Choral et Fugue, of which the first two sections are included, was written in 1884 and designed for the piano, although it is now equally familiar in an orchestrated version by Gabriel Pierné. The opening Prélude is improvisatory in style, followed by the hymn-like Choral.


Îles de Chausey • Quiberon Peninsula • Mont St-Michel

The archipelago of Chausey, with its multitude of rocky islets, is near the Normandy resort of Granville, while the Quiberon Peninsula takes the visitor back to the Atlantic coast of Brittany, before a final glimpse of Mont St-Michel, silhouetted against the sky.

Music Saint-Saëns: Romance in C major, Op 48

Written in 1874, the Romance in C major, for violin and orchestra, is characteristic of Saint-Saëns’s clarity of form and texture.

Keith Anderson

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